Conducting Mission-Focused Planning and Needs Assessments with Applicant Organizations by Julie Alsup, GPC

Part 1- Accessing existing information

The big question: What do you do when you identify a grant opportunity that requires discussion of how the project fits into the agency’s larger mission and/or existing needs assessments? This may initially cause concern and prevent an organization from pursuing the opportunity. The truth is there are likely existing documents within your organization and the community that may provide you with what you need.

Here are a few simple tools that already exist:

An agency’s most recent strategic plan. Strategic plans have come a long way from when they used to be large, bound documents gathering dust on the shelf. Now, they are often full of infographics and bullet points, they increasingly exist in electronic formats, and they come with executive summaries that can add content to your grant narrative.  If you can show how your grant project aligns in any way to either key strategies or tactics within the larger strategic plan of the agency, you can speak to the sustainability of your project.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) requires that tax-exempt hospitals create a hospital community needs health needs assessment every three years. These must be developed with input from community stakeholders. You can often find the most recent community needs assessment for the closest nonprofit hospital on that hospital’s website.  Look at the coverage area for that hospital and describe in your grant narrative how your agency’s geographic focus area overlaps. For example, your agency may serve two of the four counties covered by the hospital. You can then discuss the community needs identified by the needs assessment, giving proper credit to the source and explaining similarities and differences between your focus and that of the hospital. As an added plus, hospitals that cover multiple counties or have multiple locations may have reports broken down even further.  Here is a link to needs assessment examples from Truman Medical Center, a hospital system in Kansas City, Missouri:

Regional planning entities often have established coalitions of stakeholders that have already compiled needs data in key areas of social issues within a community. Here is an example from the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City: Entities like this can serve many purposes to the grant writer.

  • First, you can look at what people or organizations are participating in working groups, coalitions, or contributing to needs assessments on certain topics.
  • Second, there may be published reports with community data, and often they have worked with local/regional university partners to compile these reports.
  • Third, there are often updated news links and articles describing the region’s strategic approach and any policy initiatives linked to an issue.
  • Finally, you can call and talk with a project manager to ask them specific questions you might have about data or statistics, request a letter of support for your project describing how your work aligns with regional priorities, and inquire about future opportunities to either scale or replicate your work or align more closely with other regional efforts.

In summary, you don’t always have to re-create the wheel to access good quality mission-focused planning content or community needs assessments.  Read part 2 of this blog for what you can do to proactively conduct mission-focused planning and needs assessments if what is available is not sufficient.

Learn more in Part 2: Conducting mission-focused and needs assessment planning!

GPC competency 2.5.  Identify methods of accessing and/or conducting mission-focused planning and needs assessments with applicant organizations.

Learn more about Needs Statements and Needs Assessments in our On-demand Recorded Training!

Grants 101: Describing the Need
Grants 201: Needs Assessment & Strategic Plans
Ethics: Ethics for Grant Proposal Need Statements

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